New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

COVID-19 will spread in Africa (courtesy theconversation.com)

New Economic Order Required to Combat COVID-19 in Africa

Lawrence Freeman

March 30, 2020

As of March 30, 2020, the Africa CDC reports the total number of COVID-19 cases-4,760, deaths-146, and recoveries-355. The totals for individual nations vary from higher levels:  Algeria 511 cases and 31 deaths; Egypt 609 and 40; Morocco 479 and 26, South Africa 1280 and 1; Nigeria 111 and 1 (cases and deaths respectively); to dozens of nations reporting 10 or less cases and 0 deaths. Africa CDC COVID-19

While these figures for Africa are significantly lower than nations in Europe, Asia, and North America, in some cases orders of magnitude lower, there is reason for great concern for the spread of the Coronavirus throughout the African continent. Many African nations are unable to adequately test their citizens, and one should assume the number of cases is vastly unreported. Also, there unique features of African society that present an impediment to isolation of those infected with COVID-19, and social distancing. African society are centered around crowded mass markets, and culturally Africans are prone to show their friendliness towards others by holding hands.

Factoring in a weak healthcare system, poor nutrition, inadequate housing, lack of electricity and clean water, and already prevalent existing diseases (HIV AIDS, Malaria, TB) in the population, COVID-19 could propagate very rapidly, overwhelming an insufficient number of beds, hospitals and doctors. For Africans, the consequences of the proliferation of COVID-19 could be catastrophic, resulting in higher levels of mortality and morbidity than we have presently experienced.

Debt Restructuring Necessary for Africa’s Health

In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, for the first time in many years, African leaders are demanding a restructuring of the onerous debt, whose payment has diverted nations’ revenues away from investing in vital categories of infrastructure, including healthcare. Payment of debt, mere loans, cannot be, to quote from William Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice, “the pound of flesh” used to kill people. Tragically, since African nations liberated themselves from European colonialism, debt has been used as a weapon to repress the development of emerging nations.

On March 24, the office of the Ethiopian Prime Minister, Dr Abiy Ahmed, released an incisive three point proposal to the G20 nations outlining necessary actions to be taken to safeguard African nations during this pandemic. He began by dramatically stating the truth, “COVID-19 poses an existential threat to the economies of African countries. Our economies, fragile and vulnerable even in the best of times will face serious shocks.” He than discussed a crucial underlying constraint imposed on African nations, “the heavy debt burden, the servicing of which alone costs many of them [nations] significantly more than their annual health budgets.”

Prime Minister Abiy requested from the G20:

  • $150 billion “Africa Global COVID-19 Emergency Financing Package”
  • “Global Africa Health Emergency Package”
  • “Debt resolution and Restructuring Package.”

Elaborating on debt restructuring, Prime Minister Abiy wrote, “Ethiopia proposes all interest payments to government loans should be written off. We suggest the remaining debt be converted into long term low interest loans with 10 years grace period before payments. All debt payments will be limited to 10% of the value of exports.”

The theme of restructuring Africa’s debt to deal with the present crisis, was also discussed in a virtual conference of African finance ministers on March 19, according to the United Nations Economic Commission for Africa (UNECA).  To battle COVID-19, the ministers said, “Africa needs an immediate emergency economic stimulus to the tune of $100 billion” The UNCEA reports that they are asking that $44 billion, almost fifty percent of the funds requested, would come from halting payments of debt service, and in the most fragile nations to the loan principal as well.  African Finance Ministers Discuss Debt

In an insightful column, published in the March 25th edition of the Financial Times, Prime Minister Abiy again raises the necessity of debt alleviation: “Building on what has been announced by international financial institutions, the G20 must launch a global fund to prevent the collapse of health systems in Africa. The institutions need to establish a facility to provide budgetary support to African countries. The issue of resolving Africa’s debt burden also needs to be put back on the table as a matter of urgency.” (emphasis added)  PM Abiy “If Covid-19 is not beaten in Africa it will return to haunt us all”

 

Crowded Nigerian Market (courtesy buzznigeria.com)

 

Emergency Actions Taken

Nigeria—March 18, with 8 confirmed cases, imposed a travel ban on 13 high-risk COVID-19 infested countries; mandated a ban open worship and other public gatherings; mandated compulsory laboratory tests on all staff and members of the national assembly; mandated that public institutions should be equipped with temperature gauge.  All airports in Nigeria are closed to international commercial flights until 23 April.

Rwanda—March 21, with 17 confirmed cases of COVID-19, suspended all arriving and departing commercial flights for 30 days; shutdown of schools, universities, and places of worship for two weeks; the office of the Prime Minister released a list of nine preventive measures.

Ethiopia—March 23, with 11 confirmed COVID-19 cases, enforced a 14 day mandatory quarantine for all travelers entering the country; closed all schools, and banned all gatherings and sports events for 15 days. March 25, Ethiopian President Sahle-Work Zewde ordered that more than 4,000 prisoners be pardoned.

Senegal–March 23, declared a state of emergency.

Ivory Coast–March 23, declared a state of emergency, imposed a curfew from 9:00 pm to 5:00 am, and shut the country’s borders

South Africa—March 26, with over 900 confirmed cases, began a three-week nationwide lockdown; the lockdown is considered one of the strictest, banning alcohol sales, dog-walking, and jogging in public.

In response to the COVID-19 crisis, China has sent to the African Union, 2,000 test kits to be dispersed across the continent, and is expected to send another 10,000, along with medical supplies. China has also launched a new Health Silk Road. On Sunday, March 22, African Union received 1.1 million test kits, 6 million masks, 60,000 medical protective suits and face shields, donated by Chinese billionaire Jack Ma.

Lessons We Must Learn

We can and should learn the following lessons from this contagious and lethal virus. Decisions made by nations for securing their future can now be informed from the very painful consequences of the global spread of COVID-19. If society, had learned the principles of the science of physical economy, instead of being seduced by the “smell of money,” we might very well have been able to avoid the worst of the tragic effects of COVID-19, which continue to plague our planet.  An unprepared and underfunded national economy gives society little chance to deal with any serious crisis, much less a pandemic.

*Globalization has always been a trojan horse, an Achilles heel for the security of any nation. The idea that a nation should gamble its security on the premise of buying necessary commodities from anywhere in the world at the cheapest price was always insane.  Witness today’s disruption of multi-thousand mile long supply chains as proof.

For example, properly understood, feeding one’s population is a matter of national security. African nations have undermined their security and sovereignty by failing to be food self-sufficient. Procuring food from other continents or at great distances across Africa is not only foolish, but totally unnecessary given the fecundity of African soil.  By conservative estimates, African nations spend $35 billion on imported food. A colossal and senseless waste of foreign exchange, which contributes to a nation’s poverty.  And a poor-hungry population is fertile ground for orchestrated destabilizations. Nations are ordered by institutions like the World Trade Organization to buy their food at the cheapest price regardless of domestic consequences.

The alternative to globalization is obvious; each nation has the sovereign obligation to foster productive agriculture and manufacturing sectors. The current pandemic of the coronavirus has brought to the fore the perilous effects of nations dependent upon importing lifesaving products from other nations.

Africa’s huge infrastructure deficit has always been a killer for Africa; literally!  Many of my friends and critics alike have objected to my insistence that the most critical prerequisite for Africa’s development is infrastructure. The most essential human right, is the right to live, and to live as a dignified human being. That is impossible with pathetically low, in some cases, non-existent levels of infrastructure.

Hospital in South Africa (courtesy borgenproject.com)

*Healthcare infrastructure is a necessity to sustain longevity of life—the essence of a human right. It embodies all components of infrastructure, manufacturing, and agricultural industries.

Examine what is necessary to maintain a hospital. Abundant electricity for lights and machines, access to clean water, roads and rail lines to transport patients, advanced medical equipment, a manufacturing sector to produce all the products consumed by hospital staff, food production to feed patients and staff, colleges, medical schools to train nurses and physicians, clothing for patients and staff, protective gear, and the list goes on. Now ask oneself, how many hospitals are there per 100,000 population in Africa?  How many basic hospital beds exist? How advanced intensive care units? If you look at the chart in the link below, which admittedly is several years old, you can see the huge discrepancy in hospital beds per 1,000 people in Africa compared other parts of the world. Hospital Bed per 1,000 in Africa

In the years 2012-2013, the US had 2.9 beds per 1,000 people, Italy 3.9 and Spain 3. All these nations are now experiencing a shortage of beds and all are considered hot spots in this COVID-19 pandemic. Shockingly, in that same time frame, over 25 African nations were recorded to have 1 bed or less per 1,000.

In 1975 the U.S. had 1.5 million hospital beds, and today has 925,000-over half a million fewer. Today the US has an average of 2.5 beds per 1,000 people, and California, Oregon, and Washington have 2 beds or less per 1,000. By contrast, before the outbreak of COVID-19, Wuhan, China had 4.3 beds per 1000, and they have added 10,000 hospital beds since the outbreak began by building several new hospitals.

Think for a moment would kind of investment in infrastructure, production, and labor that would be required for African nations to even reach the insufficient US level of hospitals and beds. How many hundreds of thousands of megawatts of electricity would have to be generated to supply these new hospitals? How many million gallons of water would be required? Africa has never built up a minimum healthcare infrastructure and is woefully unprepared should the pandemic surge on the continent in the weeks and months ahead.

 As we are witnessing today, the West is suffering greatly from the deliberate slashing its own healthcare infrastructure over recent decades. This has been accomplished through austerity, shortsightedness, and an indecent obeisance to a desire to make fast-money by gambling on Wall Street.

*State government intervention has risen to the fore during this scourge of COVID-19, despite decades maligning the role of the state. It is now clear that contrary to the false claims that the state has no role in the world of neo-liberalism, laissez-faire, and unregulated free-trade, government supervision and government credit-debt to sustain people and the economy have proofed invaluable and lifesaving. Putting aside the multi-trillion dollar bailout to the global gambling casino known as the financial system, governments have issued emergency funds necessary to maintain society. Much more government intervention will be required to save lives in the weeks and months ahead.

Globalization (courtesy thegeopolitics.com)

 A New Just Economic Order       

Prime Minister Abiy’s column in the Financial Times beseeches the need for a coordinated global response to COVID-19:

 “There is a major flaw in the strategy to deal with the coronavirus pandemic. Advanced economies are unveiling unprecedented economic stimulus packages. African countries, by contrast, lack the wherewithal to make similarly meaningful interventions. Yet if the virus is not defeated in Africa, it will only bounce back to the rest of the world. 

That is why the current strategy of uncoordinated country-specific measures, while understandable, is myopic, unsustainable and potentially counter-productive. A virus that ignores borders cannot be tackled successfully like this.

We can defeat this invisible and vicious adversary — but only with global leadership. Without that, Africa may suffer the worst, yet it will not be the last. We are all in this together, and we must work together to the end.”

His comments implore the urgent necessity for an entirely different global approach to be taken by nations. We must absorb the horrible reality of today’s deadly crisis to motivate our passions to create a better future for civilization.

For humanity to survive, we can no longer tolerate living in a world governed a geo-political doctrine that views other countries crudely as either friend or foe, with winners on top and losers underneath.  We can no longer live in a system that values mere money above human life. Look at Sudan, whose people are suffering, while Western institutions led by the International Monetary Fund use Sudan’s $53 billion in (unpayable) debt as weapon to dictate their “reforms.”

Months before COVID-19, the United Nations asked for $135 million to fight the unprecedented Desert Locust threatening the food supply in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia. The fund is still $100 million short of that goal. The UN has called the locust swarm in East Africa “extremely alarming.” Tthe current pandemic is affecting the ability for African nations to obtain the minimal equipment and pesticides required.

We must bring into creation a new model for governing. A new paradigm that values human life above all else. One that acknowledges the universal moral resemblance of all human beings.

The call for a New Just World Economic Order was first articulated in the 1970s and has been echoed for decades by world leaders. All foreign, domestic, economic policy should be formulated upon the recognizable principle that all people share a common aim and destiny. We, the human race, are unified by our endowed unique quality; the power of reason-creative imagination.  To resolve the multiple crises facing humanity, including a meltdown of the global financial system, it is urgent that an international conference be convened to establish a new template for economic and political relations among sovereign nations. The foremost underlying principle for such deliberations is acknowledging that the aspiration of all nations should be the elevation of human creative life. For all peoples.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Is the Trump Administration Violating Ethiopia’s Sovereignty?

(Courtesy Ethiopian Foreign Ministry FACEBOOK)

Is the Trump Administration Violating Ethiopia’s Sovereignty?

Lawrence Freeman

March 10, 2020

In the first week of March, representatives of President Trump’s administration presented conflicting responses on Ethiopia’s right to operate the Ethiopian Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD) for the production of electrical power for the nations of East Africa. The construction of the GERD is over 70% complete and is expected to commence operation in 2021, with a capacity to generate 6,200 megawatts of electricity.  The GERD built near the border of Sudan, will be filled by water from the Blue Nile, that flows from Lake Tana, located in the mountainous region of Ethiopia. Ethiopia cannot be deprecated for exercising its sovereign right to exploit its most important resource, water, for the benefit of its people, and neighboring African nations.

Ethiopia and the two downstream nations, Sudan and Egypt, have been involved in discussions that now primarily focus on the “fill rate”-how much water is withdrawn each year from the Blue Nile to fill the GERD’s 79 billion cubic meter reservoir. Egypt is justifiably concerned about how the reduced flow of the Blue Nile resulting from filling the reservoir will affect the level of water reaching Egypt’s High Aswan Dam.  The Blue Nile contributes 85% of the Nile’s volume of water when it joins the White Nile just north of Khartoum.

Without harming downstream nations, the GERD requires a minimal fill rate to permit the generation of electricity. Egypt, claiming that filling the GERD reservoir with water from the Blue Nile will cause hardship for its people, has made excessive demands on Ethiopia to guarantee an unreasonable allocation of the Nile’s water. This is principally an issue to be resolved by the engineers in the technical committees of the three nations.

Since December, the Trump administration has hosted, several meetings of the three nations in Washington, under the auspices of the US Treasury Secretary, Steve Mnuchin. Secretary Mnuchin’s involvement was to be as a neutral observer, not a mediator. However, recent written and oral statements from Mnuchin, and the Treasury Department, has called into question the impartiality of the US. Retired Ambassador David Shinn’s blog of February 29, he questioned whether, the United States seems to be “putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt.”

Mnuchin Not Impartial

Following the decision by the Ethiopian delegation not to participate in the February 27-28 meeting with Sudan and Egypt, Mnuchin publicly tipped his hand in favor of Egypt. In a February 28th letter, the U.S. Department of the Treasury wrote that Egypt initialed an agreement on the GERD, and instructed Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without any agreement.”  Feb 28 letter by Secretary of the Treasury on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.  The truth is, there is no existing document to be initialed or signed, because such an agreement can only come about as the fruitful result of the participation by the representatives of all three nations.  Mnuchin, has no legal or political authority to instruct Ethiopia about the functioning of the GERD.

The next day, on February 29, Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs rebuffed Mnuchin’s letter: “The ‘text’ reportedly initialed by the Arab Republic of Egypt in Washington D.C. is not the outcome of the negotiation or the technical and legal discussion of the three countries.” The Foreign Ministry wrote: Ethiopia as the owner of the GERD will commence first filling of the GERD in parallel with the construction of the Dam in accordance with the principles of equitable and reasonable utilization and the causing of no significant harm as provided for under the Agreement on the Declaration of Principles (DoP).”

On March 3, testifying before the House Ways and Means committee, Mnuchin was even more blatant in his disregard for Ethiopia’s sovereignty over the GERD. Congressman Steven Horsford (D-Nev) asked Mnuchin to correct the narrative that the US is not trying to impose its will on Ethiopia and requested a balanced approach towards all the core nations involved. Mnuchin brazenly responded, “Ethiopia should not fill the dam until there is an agreement signed.” Presently, Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia have not formulated any agreement to be signed. Clearly, Mnuchin has without any mandate, expanded his role as a neutral moderator to an advocate for Egypt’s position.

(Courtesy of Yale Environment 360)

State Department Doesn’t Agree

On the very same day that Mnuchin was infringing on Ethiopia’s sovereignty, another branch of the Trump administration, the U.S. State Department, had a different response to the GERD negotiations. On March 3, the Woodrow Wilson Africa Program sponsored a forum, The Trump Administration and U.S. Africa Policy: What has been accomplished and what lies ahead? The speaker was Tibor P. Nagy, Jr., Assistant Secretary, Bureau of African affairs, an experienced ambassador to Africa. I was able to question him about the US position towards Ethiopia. Specifically, I asked, since President extols national sovereignty for the U.S. and repeatedly exalts “America First,” wasn’t it a double standard to deny Ethiopia the same sovereign rights regarding the GERD? Nagy then flatly contradicted Mnuchin, when he answered, “What I can say is that the U.S. has consistently said we are neutral in that whole business.” Nagy’s boss, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, in Addis Ababa on February 18, said “A great deal of work remains, but I’m optimistic that over the coming months we can resolve this.” Clearly Nagy and Pompeo are not operating on the timetable of President Trump and Mnuchin who wanted the deal resolved by the end of February.

Sudan Differs With Egypt and Arab League

Mnuchin’s letter of February 28, implies that Sudan supported the so called agreement written without Ethiopia’s participation. Sudan in fact refused to add its initials to those of Egypt on the agreement. This indicates that it was only Egypt, just one of the three nations involved, who with Mnuchin, took this stance.

According to an article from Middle East News Agency (MENA), Sudan rejected a resolution from the Arab League supporting Egypt’s position regarding the GERD on March 5. MENA reports that Sudan, “asked not to include their name in the decision [resolution], and added that decision is not in Sudan’s interest…”   (emphasis added.) At the Arab League Summit, Sudan formally withdrew its name from the resolution criticizing Ethiopia.

Ethiopia’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs responded to the Arab League resolution in a strongly worded statement on March 6. They wrote, “Ethiopia expresses its profound appreciation to Sudan’s principled position that helps advance win-win solutions for all parties involved through a commitment to open dialogue. Ethiopia reiterated that it “has the right to use its Nile water resource to meet the needs of the present and future generations.” March 6 Statement on Arab League

Africa Needs Energy

Once the GERD is completed, it will have the capacity to produce 6,200 megawatts of electrical power. This will benefit not only the people of Ethiopia, but also those nations of the Horn of Africa and beyond. Sub-Saharan Africa needs energy, and lots of it-minimally 1 million additional megawatts. It is a matter of survival. Without abundant and accessible electricity, African nations will not develop, and thus be subjected to various forms of destabilization due to rising unemployment of its youth and persisting poverty. Ethiopia has taken a bold step in constructing the largest hydro-electric dam in Africa intended to develop the Nile River Basin. All existing difficulties can and must be resolved in a dialogue among the three principal nations, who share this majestic historic waterway, the birthplace of ancient civilizations.

There is no intrinsic conflict between Ethiopia and the down stream nations of Egypt and Sudan, as Sudan has already implicitly recognized.

It is appropriate here to repeat what I wrote last October: “How many years will it take to fill the GERD’s reservoir, and what will be the flow rate of the Nile at the Aswan Dam, are yet to be resolved. These are technical matters that scientists and engineers must continue to examine in an atmosphere of good will and good faith. Such cooperation is essential to promote the common interests of all nations for a prosperous Nile Basin.” Grand Renaissance Dam Essential for Africa’s Economic Growth

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Are the US and Egypt Violating Ethiopia’s Sovereignty Over The Blue Nile?

March 2, 2020

Below Ambassador David Shinn raises the concern that the US is supporting Egypt in limiting Ethiopia’s sovereign right to to use the Grand Renaissance Dam to provide desperately needed hydro-electric power for the Horn of Africa.

Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam: What Role is the U.S. Playing?

Posted: 29 Feb 2020 The U.S. Department of the Treasury posted on 28 February 2020 a “Statement by the Secretary of the Treasury on the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam.”

U.S. Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin at the request of President Trump has been meeting since early this year with representatives of Egypt, Sudan, and Ethiopia in an effort to reach an agreement on the fill rate of the reservoir behind Ethiopia’s large hydropower dam on the Blue Nile River known as the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD). The dam is about 70 percent complete. The Blue Nile provides more than 50 percent of the water that eventually reaches Egypt via the Nile River. While the reservoir behind the dam is being filled, it will hold back water that would normally flow to Sudan and then Egypt. It is essential that the fill rate not harm Sudan and Egypt. But it is also essential to fill the reservoir in a manner that will allow Ethiopia to produce hydropower without unreasonable delays.

The statement by the Treasury secretary is strange in that it appreciates the readiness of Egypt to sign the U.S.-brokered agreement, which is not part of the public record, but warns Ethiopia that “final testing and filling should not take place without an agreement.” Ethiopia has not yet signaled that it is prepared to accept the agreement and, apparently, neither has Sudan. The United States seems to be putting its thumb on the scale in favor of Egypt. Perhaps it is time to make the agreement public so that everyone can see what the United States is proposing.

The fact that the U.S. Treasury Department is in charge of this effort is surprising. In any other administration, the State Department, which actually has expertise on this issue, would broker the agreement. So I wonder. What is the United States up to?

Celebrate Ethiopia’s March 1, 1896 Victory at Adwa- A Victory For Africa and All Nations

I am republishing my article from March 2017, to celebrate Ethiopia’s defeat of the invading Italian imperialist army, on the battlefield of Adwa. Ethiopia’s leadership and vision flow from never allowing their country to be colonized. That same min-set is evident today in Ethiopia’s construction of its Grand Renaissance Dam (GERD). All of Africa, and all true friends of Africa are proud of Ethiopia’s victory

March 1: Celebrate Ethiopia’s Defeat of Italy At Adwa; A Victory Against European Imperialism

Hunger Stalks Africa: Nations Should be Food Self-Sufficient

Desert Locust invade Ethiopia (Courtesy TESFANEWS)

February 27, 2020

Right now, as I write, two regions of Africa are experiencing food emergencies: East Africa and Southern Africa. This is a crime against humanity. There is no objective reason for starvation and malnutrition in this continent rich with arable land. Actions should be taken today, not tomorrow, to reverse this life threatening, but preventable food shortage. It is morally repugnant to witness so many human beings perishing due to the persistence of poverty, hunger, and disease in Africa.

On January 20th, the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) requested a mere $76 million to combat the spread of the destructive Desert Locusts.  A just released joint statement-UN Joint Statement on Locust in East Africa signed by several organizations, Locust in Africa: A Race Against Time, reports that since February, the locust swarms originally sighted in Ethiopia, Kenya, Somalia, have spread to South Sudan, Djibouti, Uganda, Tanzania,  and have reached the eastern border of the Democratic Republic of the Congo, which has not since a locust incursion since 1944.  With the expansion of the locust invasion, the FAO has doubled its request for emergency funding to $138 million, of which only $33 million, less than 25% has been collected of pledged.

In this region of the world the food supply is already so fragile that 20 million Africans are deemed food insecure. Experts estimate that a one square kilometer swarm of Desert Locusts can consume as much food as 35,000 people in one day, which potentially increases the number of food insecure Africans in this zone to almost 40 million.

The joint communique boldly states: “The next wave of locusts could devastate East Africa’s most important crop of the year, right when it is most vulnerable. But that doesn’t have to happen. The Window of opportunity is still open. The time to act is now.”

The statement concludes: “It is time for the international community to act more decisively. The math is clear, as is our moral obligation. Pay a little now, or pay a lot more late.”

Read: UN Joint Statement on Locust in East Africa

Read my recent post: End Threat of Locust Plague: Transform the Desert

 

Village women receive aid from a charity organisation in Chirumhanzi, Zimbabwe, File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP
Village women receive aid from a charity organisation in Chirumhanzi, Zimbabwe, File picture: Tsvangirayi Mukwazhi/AP

Southern Africa

Simultaneously, on the Southern end of the Africa continent; Zimbabwe, Zambia, Angola, Lesotho, and Eswanti (Swaziland) are also facing shortages of food.

Journalist, Shannon Ebrahim, reports that “according the World Food Program (WFP), 7.7 million Zimbabweans are facing the worst hunger emergency in a decade…An astounding 90% of infants are malnourished and have stunted growth.” However, severe food shortages are not limited to Zimbabwe

“In Angola, 2.4 million are affected by food insecurity, where children are barely eating one meal a day. World Vision staff in Angola report they have never seen hunger and malnutrition on this scale.

“In Zambia, 2.3 million are facing acute hunger, and in Eswatini 24% of the population are suffering food shortages. In Lesotho, 20% of the population is food insecure

WFP regional director for southern Africa Lola Castro has said, “The hunger crisis is on a scale we’ve never seen before and evidence shows it’s going to get worse.”

Ebrahim writes, “As a result of drought, widespread flooding, and economic problems, 45 million people in southern Africa are facing food shortages.”

Hunger Can Be Eliminated

Droughts, locusts, and other disasters that contribute to food insecurity may not easily be prevented, but human intervention can mitigate and surmount so called natural catastrophes. However, there is no justifiable reason for hunger to persist in a continent of abundant, fertile, arable land.

Food self-sufficiency, which is a national security priority, in this age of out sized and exaggerated globalization, has worsened in the majority of African nations over the last several decades.  Not only does this jeopardize the health and existence of society, but it drains nation’s foreign reserves with mega-food import expenditures.

The most critical, essential, fundamental, and undeniable ingredient to a successful agricultural sector, as well as a manufacturing sector, is infrastructure.  It is the sine qua non for progress. Africa is suffering from a lack of infrastructure, particularly in the most crucial categories of hard infrastructure; electrical power and railroads. No concerned official in Africa or from a friendly government, who does not place their emphasis on energy and rail, is not helping African nations to develop. No NGO activist, no matter how sincere, who does not advocate for such infrastructure is not truly helping Africans to free themselves from the shackles of poverty, hunger, and disease.

I do not make these statements lightly. Without massive construction of hard infrastructure, African nations will not have productive agricultural and manufacturing sectors capable of producing the physical goods necessary for society’s continued existence. This is a scientific-economic reality.

Why are trees being cut down across the Sahel? To provide firewood and charcoal for cooking. This is foolishness. Trees are one of the best means to reverse the march of the desert. However, trees are being cut down, because homes do not have access to electricity and gas. If a portion of the tens of billions of dollars being spent on “global warming” were spent providing electricity to the nations of the Sahel, the counterproductive practice of charcoaling would be eliminated. If we built the decades’ overdue East West railroad, along with irrigating the desert (again energy) we could, can, transform the desert.

Why should over 100 million Africans face food insecurity on this rich African continent? The truth is; there is no acceptable reason. Our own lack of action speaks volumes.

Read: Zimbabwe is Facing Starvation

Read my article below from March 22, 2017 

Famine in Africa: More Than Humanitarian Aid Required

 

Ethiopia’s Medemer Philosophy

 

February 25, 2020

I had the pleasure to attend a fascinating and enlightening discussion on what Medemer means and why Prime Minister Abiy Ahmed has introduced this concept into Ethiopia today. The conversation was led by Ambassador Fitsum Arega, Ethiopian ambassador to the U. S. and included; Lencho Bati and Mamo Mihretu, both in the prime minister’s office in Addis Ababa, and Etana Dinka, Oberlin College.

Prime Minister Abiy has authored a book, Medemer, (Amharic) and simultaneously launched the new nationwide Prosperity Party, which is an application of his Medemer philosophy.

The panelists explained to the overflow audience at the United States Institute for Peace (USIP) in Washington, that the Medemer philosophy should guide both Ethiopia’s domestic and foreign policy. Medemer embodies the concept of national unity and the need for all to work for the common good; for Ethiopia’s prosperity, and its elimination of poverty. Amb. Arega said that Ethiopia cannot change the past, but Ethiopia needs new ideas that go beyond its highly charged ethnic politics. He spoke of the need for forgiveness in Ethiopian society, with no finger pointing, in order for Ethiopia to move forward. The idea of a shared-common humanity, embodied in Medemer, is the underpinning for establishing sound relationships with other nations.

Ethiopia is entering a challenging period, economically, politically, and socially. The nation is attempting to create an appropriate economic policy that will enable millions of educated youth to be absorbed into its workforce. The nation is also coming to terms with the limitations of almost thirty years of a federation of ethnic states. With national elections scheduled for August, Prime Minister Abiy’s non-ethnic based Prosperity Party is provoking a healthy discourse about Ethiopia’s identity.

All of these issues are relevant to the concept of Medemer, that was richly elaborated in the two-hour dialogue at USIP.

Watch: A Changing Ethiopia: Understanding Medemer

Read: Ethiopia’s Prosperity Party: A Revolutionary Necessity

 

End Threat of Locust Plague: Transform the Desert

End Locust Plagues: Transform the Desert

February 20, 2020

Lawrence Freeman

Today the food supply of East Africa is threatened by a locust swarm that is ravaging crops in several nations. The Desert Locust (Schistocerca gregaria) is an extremely destructive pest that is found from West Africa, east across the African continent to the Middle East, India, and Asia.

A Desert Locust upsurge can grow into a swarm, and under the right conditions develop into a plague, affecting two or more regions with concentrated locust infestations. When locust swarms grow and migrate, they endanger the food supply of dozens of nations that comprise a large portion of the earth’s surface. The 1986-1989 plague is reported to have affected over 40 nations destroying crops in the Sahel, North Africa, the Arabian Peninsula, and southwestern Asia.

In 2016, the World Metrological Organization (WMO), and the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization’s (FAO), released a report, Weather and Desert Locusts, documenting that the invasion area of the Desert Locusts extends to 30 million square kilometers, over 11.5 million square miles-almost the size of the entire African continent.

The international community must initiate a full scale military style operation to support African nations with resources and personnel, if we are to prevent thousands of more Africans from starvation. Africa, Arabia, India, Pakistan cannot afford a new plague; we have the power to act now to prevent such a catastrophe.

Now is also the opportune time for civilization to confront the more difficult task of “eliminating” desert conditions that spawn the locust. Many initiatives and water infrastructure projects exist to begin the greening of the Sahel.

East Africa’s Food Supply at Risk

A swarm of these deadly locusts can reach several billion, covering an area of 200 by 120 kilometers. Each locust consumes its weight daily in food-2grams, resulting in a loss of hundreds of thousands of tons of food meant to feed the population. According to the United Nations’ (FAO), “each square kilometer of swarm can include 40 to 80 million locusts and eat as much food as 35,000 people.”

The swarms are active in Kenya, Somalia, and Ethiopia, and have spread to Uganda, and South Sudan. It is estimated that 11 million people are already considered food insecure in this region of Africa. According to the U.N., this new invasion of locust swarms could cause food insecurity to an additional 20 million Africans. The UN reports that the swarms are the largest that Somalia, and Ethiopia have experienced in a quarter of a century. Kenya has not faced this severe of an incursion in 70 years. Somalia has declared a national emergency, in response to the Desert Locust invasion, as has Pakistan. Already, 71,000 acres of farmland in Ethiopia and Somalia have been destroyed.

Keith Cressman, senior forecaster for the FAO, reported that the swarms have moved across the border into Tanzania and Uganda. He said: “Action taken in Somalia, Ethiopia and Kenya – as well as Pakistan – will now determine what happens next. If the current upsurge crosses more borders and infests more regions, devastating more crops, it could be declared a ‘plague’.”

The Uganda government has responded appropriately to the threat to their food supply by deploying the military to assist in spraying of pesticides.

Desert Locust invade Ethiopia (Courtesy TESFANEWS)

Emergency Action Required

The U.N. has asked for $76 million in immediate aid. So far just under $20 million is in hand, including $10 million released from the U.N. emergency relief fund and $3.8 million from FAO. The United States originally agreed to contribute $800,000, and the European Union 1 million Euros. However, even with a pledge of $8 million to fight the locust incursion, announced by Secretary of State, Mike Pampeo during his recent visit to Ethiopia, the total is barely more than a third of the funds requested. The international community is being dangerously shortsighted, if not morally criminal, by allowing the locust swarms to exacerbate existing food shortages.

Dominique Burgeon, the FAO’s emergency and resilience director warned that without aerial spraying the current surge can turn into a plague, “and when you have a plague, it takes years to control.”  Mark Lowcock, the UN’s top humanitarian official, told ambassadors at a UN briefing last week: “We are running out of time. We do have a chance to nip this problem in the bud, but that’s not what we are doing at the moment.”

It is imperative the aerial and ground spraying be expanded immediately, and all necessary resources be provided. African nations lack the adequate number of planes necessary, most having less than a handful that can be deployed to combat the swarm. According to The New Humanitarian, the five planes that Kenya deployed to break up the swarms initially faced a shortage of the insecticide, fenitrothion. They report that the Deputy Minister of Agriculture for Somalia, Maud Ali Hassan said, “We are lacking all resources, including the expertise to prevent a humanitarian disaster.”

In addition to the full complement of aerial and ground spraying that must include a sufficient number of planes, insecticide, and four wheel drive vehicles to reach remote areas, which the locust infected nations lack, Cressman raises the possible deployment of drone technology.

Ultra Low Volume spraying with insecticides produces a mist with droplets that has proved effective in killing this deadly pest.

In his article, Preventing the spread of desert locust swarms, Cressman writes: “The operational use of unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) – also known as drones – could potentially overcome these limitations in many affected nations. In the field, UAVs could be used to automatically collect high-resolution imagery of green, vegetated areas potentially affected by locusts”

Civilian satellite imaging is being employed. However, advanced imagery is needed to locate more precisely infested and breeding areas. This requires that African nations have access to imagery from military satellites, which would also necessitate that their technicians be properly trained to interpret the data.

The application of electron magnetic pulses and other electromagnetic devices to emit tuned frequencies specifically aimed at killing the locusts should also be utilized in this war against these lethal pests.

An all-out war against the spread of locusts, using all available technologies is required to save the food supply of African nations already suffering from nutrition deficiency. The cost cannot be a factor for inaction. Whether it is $80 million, $100 million or several hundred million dollars: this is a small price to pay to prevent another plague. Compare this relatively minor cost to the obscene amounts of money-billions of dollars-being spent on the US Presidential primaries. The Desert Locust assault on humanity can be arrested, if we act now, with full force!

Transform the Desert

Desert Locusts “are always present somewhere in the deserts between Mauritania and India…ready to mate when conditions are favorable. Eggs are usually laid in areas of bare sandy soil and require previous rainfall,” according to the report, Weather and Desert Locusts.

Since the sands, dry heat, and winds of African deserts create propitious conditions for the breeding and migration of desert locust, why not eliminate-i.e. transform the desert?

Contrary to popular beliefs, the Sahel and Sahara Deserts are not the natural-pristine state of North Africa. The desert was created millions of years ago when the African Plate migrated north, cut off the Tethys Sea and crashed into what is now known as Europe. The Sahara Desert was originally under water. The Sahara also alters itself, from three million square miles of arid sand into a tropical climate with lush vegetation, and waters filled with whales, and hippopotami. This occurs every 20-25,000 years in accordance with the cycle of rotation of our planet’s axis, known as the earth’s wobble. Given that the most recent drying up of the Sahara occurred approximately 5,500  years ago, the rains are not expected to return for another 15-20,000 years. However, we cannot afford to sit by idly for thousands of years suffering the harsh conditions of the desert.

Humankind was fashioned to intervene on our universe, to improve its condition, to enhance the biosphere in which we exist. The concept of the physical universe, that includes the lawful intervention of human creativity, was conceived as the “Noosphere” by the great Ukrainian geologist and scientist of the twentieth century, Vladimir Vernadsky.

The Sahara Desert has been an impediment for Africa’s development throughout hundreds of thousands of years. More recently, this uninhibited desolate expanse of land has become home to numerous violent extremist organizations that have challenged the sovereignty of Mali, and Nigeria’s Borno State.  Military only responses have so far failed to dislodge the terrorists from his region.

Think Big, Bold and in the Future

The physical universe is organized to respond to “noetic” intervention, i.e. humankind’s powers of reason. We should not be sitting on the sidelines watching disasters occur, but rather preventing so called natural catastrophes.

With sufficient density of infrastructure, functioning farms, towns, and cities, can replace mountains of desert sand. Deserts have been conquered in other parts of the world. An East-West railroad across sub-Saharan Africa from the Indian to Atlantic Ocean, which should have been built decades ago, would have already modified the Sahel and Sahara. It would be accompanied by a new platform of energy, trade, and industry that would revolutionize the economies of East and West Africa. A rail link across the Sahara, connecting this newly built East-West railroad to the nations of the Maghreb, and ultimately to Europe, would join the economies of the sub-continent to those of the Eurasian land mass. Sand would be supplanted by concrete and steel.

The desert can be converted into arable land by introducing moisture to this arid territory. Once there is continual penetration of water into the sand, vegetation and growth will occur, eventually altering transpiration cycles. This will cause a change in the volume, and patterns of rainfall.  Tree transpiration is the process by which water is carried through the tree from the roots to small pores on the underside of leaves and released into the atmosphere by evaporation. Trees consuming carbon dioxide and releasing moisture and oxygen, are the “best friends” of human beings and the environment.

Transaqua, a transnational infrastructure project to replenish the shrinking Sahelian Lake Chad to its previous area of 25,000 square kilometers, has been endorsed by the Nigerian government, and is awaiting a feasibility study.  Expanding Lake Chad with an annual flow of billions of cubic meters of water would affect climatic conditions across the Lake Chad Basin, and increase transpiration.

It is also necessary to aggressively move forward with the Pan African Great Green Wall Project (PAGGW), which  focuses on greening a strip of land of 15 km. wide and about 8,000 km. long that  will affect 20 nations including Mauritania, Burkina Faso, Chad, Djibouti, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Mali, Niger, Nigeria, Senegal and Sudan. PAGGW was adopted by the African Union in 2007 and ratified by member countries in 2010.

Another transnational infrastructure project that complements the Great Green Wall is the Trans Africa Pipeline (TAP). It is the first permanent solution to end devastating drought and increasing desertification across the Sahel region of northern Africa.

TAP is an 8,000 km. long freshwater pipeline that will provide clean, potable drinking water to 28-30 million people in 11 countries of the African Sahel. TAP will construct large-scale desalination plants on the west and east coasts of Africa. Regional tank farms and pumping stations for water storage and distribution would cross the Sahel for the management of the water source, which in turn can create upwards of 280,000 jobs across the Sahel.

The Trans Africa Water Pipeline has an agreement with the Pan African Great Green Wall Initiative, and both together can address 14 of the Sustainable Development Goals, but all member states and relevant stakeholders are needed to bring both projects to fruition.

We cannot impotently watch a pest, a mere insect, damage our human environment, when we have the means to defeat it.

Lawrence Freeman is a Political-Economic Analyst for Africa, who has been involved in the economic development policy of Africa for 30 years. He is the creator of the blog: lawrencefreemanafricaandtheworld.com

 

Our Humanity is Enriched by the Splendor of a Young African Scientific Mind

Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.
Marie Korsaga is the first female astrophysicist in West Africa.

This is a wonderful, beautiful interview about West Africa’s first female astrophysicist, Marie Korsaga, from Burkina Faso. This young woman breaks all the stereotypes. Much of our western culture does not appreciate science. Science, discoveries by the human mind, the power of hypothesis, is the driver of civilization’s growth. Science, not money, is the underlying source  of economic value. Science demonstrates, and celebrates our uniquely human powers, which no other living creature possesses, or could ever posses. We are truly in the image of the Creator when we are exercising the higher scientific powers of our creative mind. I strongly believe that the world would be better off if we had more of youth becoming scientists (and engineers). 

Excerpted questions and answers:

Where does your passion for astrophysics stem from?

From an early age, I have always been interested in the phenomena of the universe, such as the appearance of life on earth and shooting stars. I also enjoyed watching documentary films on astronomy, especially on the Apollo missions. But at the time, I never imagined that I would become an astrophysicist, because astronomy was an unknown domain in Burkina Faso. Besides, I had never met — let alone talked to — an astronomer in real life before my doing my degree.

Growing up, I intended to become a civil engineer because I also like construction. When I did my degree, astronomy had just been integrated as an optional subject in physics in Burkina Faso, and I seized this opportunity. My interest in scientific subjects allowed me to excel more easily in the subject and to pursue my postgraduate studies in astrophysics.

In a continent where there is a lack of water, electricity and even food, does opting for astrophysics ignore the fundamental problems facing the region?

Since astronomy is a science that requires a vast field of knowledge, it enables skills to be developed at the local level. For example, if you take the telescope construction project in South Africa, which is one of the biggest projects in astronomy, it was established by engineers, computer scientists, technicians. So, in addition to strict astronomy, skills are developed that can be used effectively in other sectors.

An astrophysicist is someone who is almost a complete all-rounder in science — someone who has skills in physics, engineering, programming. All this is what makes people describe astronomy as the mother of all sciences. As well as being fascinating as a science, astronomy can be used as a development tool through, for example, education and tourism. The International Astronomical Union understands this and is trying hard to address the development component in developing countries, working to achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals.

The typical example in Africa is the case of South Africa where the installation of telescopes has not only popularised science and created jobs for young people, but also boosted the local economy and infrastructure. Burkina Faso could well draw inspiration from these success stories and position itself as a centre of excellence in West Africa.

Read: West Africa’s First Female Astrophysicist

Africa Updates: Malian Crisis, Uganda’s New Hydroelectric Dam, Rwanda’s Infrastructure Goals, Kenyatta Speaks on China, US and Africa

In this interview, Lawrence Freeman exposes that the root cause of the present deadly crisis in Mali stems from the overthrow and assassination of of Muammar Gaddafi by the West in 2011, led by President Obama, Susan Rice, Hillary Clinton, and French President Sarkozy. .

 

Uganda is intending to build with ChinaPower, the Ayago Hydroelectric Power Station, located on a section of the Nile between lakes Kyoga and Albert. When completed, it will produce 840 megawatts of electricity at the cost $1.4 billion, and increase Uganda’s generating capacity by 40% to 2,800 megawattsTogether with the completion of Grand Grand Ethiopia Renaissance Dam GERD, East African nations are beginning to produce power necessary to develop their economies.  Read: Uganda-China Build New Hydroelectric Dam on the Nile

Rwandan Minister of Infrastructure, Claver Gatete, outlines plans for Rwanda to reach 100% access to electricity for its population in 2024, by adding 2.4 million households to the electrical grid in the next four years. Watch: Minister of Infrastructure on 100% Electricity by 2024

During his visit to the US, Kenyan President, Uhuru Kenyatta, warned about forcing African nations to chose between the US and China. China has made major contributions to building infrastructure in Africa that cannot be denied. The US should change its policy from treating Africa as a “pawn” in its geo-political chessboard, and instead join China in developing the vast underdeveloped African continent. Read: Kenya President Kenyatta Warns Against US-China Rivalry in Africa

End Racism Against China: CORONAVIRUS is a Human Disease

Director-General of the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO), Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, praised China for its efforts to contain the Coronavirus. (Courtesy of CGTN)

February 7, 2020

I concur with the statement below by Mrs LaRouche from the German based Schiller Institute. China is making an heroic effort to contain the Coronavirus, and I might add without international support. While President Trump supports President  Xi Jinping, the US has given no assistance. Building a new hospital from scratch in 9 days is nothing short of stupendous! Racism against China, by many of US elected officials, fellow citizens, and some of my African friends, must end. China has emerged as a global power. A more thoughtful policy would be for the United States to collaborate with China and Russia to find solutions to various strategic crises endangering peace and security in the world. 

CHINA DESERVES PRAISE AND COOPERATION IN THE FIGHT AGAINST THE CORONA VIRUS

The name of the German weekly magazine “Der Spiegel” actually means in English, “The Mirror.”  And indeed what you see this week on the cover page of the print version of Der Spiegel—a person with a gas mask, goggles, earphones and a hoody⁠—is the mirror image of the ugly face of the racism of its editors. The caption “Corona-virus Made in China” should actually be “The ugly face of the racist monster Spiegel.”

This piece of yellow trash journalism was so bad that the Chinese embassy in Germany issued a formal complaint on their website. The notorious Jylllands-Posten of Denmark had an equally disgusting so-called cartoon putting the corona virus on the Chinese flag. Various American so-called mainstream media use the abdominal racist term “The Yellow Peril.”  What all of these portrayals demonstrate is the ugly reality of an obviously deep-seated racism under a very thin varnish of “western values.”

The reality of the matter is, that the Director General of the WHO, Dr. Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus, has praised China repeatedly for the excellent handling of the epidemic, noting that China has set a new standard of dealing with such problems. That the Chinese government had published a full genome-mapping of the new variants within days of the outbreak made it easier for scientists in other countries to start working on possible vaccines, but also that China has made significant breakthroughs in the biological sciences over the past 15-20 years. Other health officials stated that the response of the Wuhan regional government and the dissemination of information was “state of the art“ and that an extremely impressive quantity of new information contained in their daily updates had been published since December 31st/January 1st.

To call any virus a “Chinese” virus is as silly as to say that it is someone’s fault if he catches the flu or gets sick in general. It can happen anywhere in the world and it can happen to every person on the planet. The lesson from this recent case of the reaction to the outbreak of the coronavirus is that it shows who in the international community is capable of responding to dangers that threaten all of humanity, and who is a troglodyte, and who is not.

If  Europe and the US want to be credible in talking about “human rights” and “western values” then they should join hands with China and cooperate on the fight to defeat the coronavirus. The coronavirus and the fact that every year 100,000s of people get killed by the influenza shows how urgent it is to make new breakthroughs in the fundamental understanding of living processes to overcome what are today, life threatening diseases.  Europe and the US should also cooperate with the most future oriented vision on the international agenda, namely the extension of the BRI into south west Asia and Africa and the international cooperation in the Space Silk Road.

For sure we should reflect on the actuality of the judgment of Gottfried Leibniz who said:

“In any case it seems that the situation of our present conditions in light of the growing moral decadence is such that it almost seems necessary that Chinese missionaries are sent to us, who could teach us the application and practices of natural theology….I therefore believe, that if a wise man would be elected not to judge about the beauty of goddesses, but about the excellence of peoples, he would give the golden apple to the Chinese.”

I think Leibniz was a lot wiser than Der Spiegel, Jyllands-Posten and New York Times. 

For more background read: Act on the Novel Coronavirus Immediately!